Traversing The Star Ocean Once Again
Star Ocean is one of those series that many may be shocked to know has been around for as long as it has – the first game was released on the Super Famicom in 1996! When the previous title, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, was released, it was touted as being the final game in the series. For many years it appeared that this was going to be the case, but fans rejoiced when it was announced in Famitsu in April 2015 that a new title was in development! With Star Ocean 5: Integrity and Faithlessness, many of the series staples – Symbology, a unique mixture of fantasy and science fiction, and a fast-paced action combat system – all return. Will Star Ocean 5 be stuck floating aimlessly (and Faithlessnessly) in space, or will it take off and reignite the series?
Someone Put A Damn Tracking Chip On The Girl!
Truth be told, I found Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness’ story to be the weakest part of the game. That isn’t to say it is horrible or unenjoyable, mind you, just that the other aspects of this game surpassed it. The series staples are still present, with Symbology and the interaction of an advanced civilization with one that is still rocking swords and shields.
This time, you follow Fidel Camuze, a 23 year-old master swordsman as he fights to protect and rescue those he holds dear. Joining him on his adventure are your typical anime cast of characters: The childhood friend who balances on the tightrope between being a sister figure and love interest for Fidel; the cocky and slightly perverted smooth talker; the straight-to-the-point officer; the voluptuous and incredibly powerful magic user; the always serious and well-trained military commander; and the little girl who has mysterious powers and no one knows why. Luckily, as you go through the game, you can have special personal moments with all of the characters that expand each individual’s personalities, hopes, and dreams – and what their favorite sort of pet is. This greatly enhances the characters and allows you develop a sort of bond with them.
This also has a hand in determining the ending you get, but more on that later. Throughout the 20-or-so hour main campaign you will be facing off against foes that wield magic and lazer guns, dragons, robots, and evil evil giant rabbits. You will be fighting many of these enemies as you try time and time again to rescue (and rescue again) Relia, who has a tendency to get kidnapped. This was my main gripe with Star Ocean 5: You seem to constantly just be trying to get Relia back, only to have her be taken again and you having to rescue her again. You will also be intervening with warring nations, one of which has the assistance of an advanced space-faring civilization. You won’t even be introduced to the real Big Bad of the title until roughly the last three quarters of the story.
Fight Fight Fight!!
While the story may be Star Ocean 5’s weakest aspect, the gameplay is its strongest facet. Integrity and Faithlessness retains the fast-paced, action-based combat that the series is known for, with a button being assigned to both weak and strong attacks. When either is held down, you are able to use your special MP-consuming abilities, be they magic spells or impressive weapon skills. The distance from your opponent comes into play – you will perform different special moves depending on whether you are near or far from an enemy, allowing each character you control to have 4 skills hotkeyed to use at a moment’s notice. Dodging is performed by simply avoiding the path of an attack, or by blocking and hitting a direction to quickly sidestep. Enemies are clearly displayed on the map so you have the choice of entering combat, and the battle takes place right where you initiate contact (much like in in Tales of Xillia and Zestiria if you are familiar with those titles).
In addition to Experience and Fol (the currency of the Star Ocean series), SP is awarded after battle. You can invest SP toward improving a large variety of non-combat skills, such as harvesting, mining, or fishing. Additionally, you can improve roles to assign to your characters to further customize their statistics, abilities, and A.I. behavior. There is A LOT of room for customization in how you want to develop your party, as each character can equip a number of roles at a time. Unlike many RPGs out there, you do not have to choose who to take with you into combat, and who to leave on the sidelines; as long as they are in your party, they will be joining you in combat. This means that for much of the game you are able to switch control among 6-7 characters at any given time, each with their unique abilities and weapons. This obviously can make boss battles quite visually intense as they’re packed with effects and explosions – but it can also make for a difficult to decipher battle when you’re trying to figure out who is casting what, who is being targeted with what, and sometimes who is alive and who is dead.
Fans can rejoice that the in-depth and deep crafting system from previous titles is once again present and is just as deep. Crafting, Alchemy, Cooking, Blacksmithing, and others all are skills that you can develop and improve, with each providing its own type of items and goods. Sprinkled throughout the areas are a plethora of resource points that you will need to investigate in order to craft your desired items.
Packed To The Brim!
As I mentioned previously, the main game on Normal difficulty will take you around 20-28 hours, depending on how much you grind and the side quests you take on. The personal actions you take part in with your party will also alter the ending – not dramatically, but there are special scenes showing the party after the story’s conclusion, which is a nice touch. Once the game is finished, though, you are treated to a good amount of post-game content, complete with secret bosses, the expansive Maze of Tribulations dungeon, and a higher game difficulty level. If you have played the previous titles, you will be happy to know that the Ethereal Queen and Gabriel Celeste return. Mastering the roles, maxing out skills, completing the craft lists, defeating super bosses, and exploring endgame dungeons will add a good many hours to your playtime if you are a completionist. You could argue that the first 20 hours of the game, A.K.A. the story, is simply the beginning of Star Ocean 5: Integrity and Faithlessness.
That Mountain In The Distance Looks… Flat?
Star Ocean is a nice-looking game, teetering on awesome. It isn’t ZOMG AMAZING, but it is far from being hideous trash. It’s just good. The character models and cities are well detailed and the special attacks pack a dramatic and flashy punch. The game cuts some corners, however, when it comes to the open fields you traverse. The ground is noticeably a flat surface with a grass texture on it, with not enough rocks and bushes spread throughout to break up that appearance. Vistas in the distance are flat images, and don’t pop as well as cities close by that are done in 3D. Truthfully, these areas may bug me more than the typical gamer, because I have a background in 3-D modeling and game design. I know a lot of games do this same style, but something about the way it was done in Star Ocean 5 seemed to make it stand out to me. One important place they cut corners – and they have no excuse in doing so – is the fact that weapons that characters equip are not reflected on the character in-game. In this day and age, with the power of modern consoles and so many other games (the Tales series being a perfect example) there is no excuse to not see a new equipped weapon on a character. Yes, this is a personal pet peeve of mine, but I would argue that it detracts from the excitement of getting that new powerful weapon when it looks like you are still swinging around the same generic long sword in battle. Hard to get to excited when THE SWORD OF ULTIMATE HOLY DESTRUCTION +20 looks the same as a Rusty Short Sword.
The only weapon change comes via a story event with the main character Fidel, about the halfway mark of the game. Come on Tri-Ace, it doesn’t take that long to create some additional weapon models for people to use!
The soundtrack of Star Ocean 5 continues in the tradition of previous titles, mixing synth and orchestral sounds to create a very unique and pulse-pounding score. The series has always had music that can convey emotions of a given scene or event in the game – battle music hypes you up, dungeon music pushes you on to the ending, and somber moments are only intensified with the accompanying score.
The Stars Still Twinkle.
I look back on my time with Star Ocean 5: Integrity and Faithlessness with a smile and a facepalm. For each aspect of the game I enjoyed, there was something that annoyed me. For example, while I found the story lacking in substance, the bonus dungeon and super bosses gave me a real challenge that truly tested me. I had a ton of customization options in terms of character roles and objects I could craft, but was left disappointed when none of my incredibly strong weapons were displayed on my character. As a complete package I feel that it was a fun and exciting RPG that was carried by its mechanics and amount of content, with the story just leaving me a bit annoyed by the end. There was a lingering feeling that the end boss was just sort of thrown to the player as an afterthought. If you are a fan of the Star Ocean series, I am confident that you will find enjoyment with Integrity and Faithlessness, and if you are hankering for a new Role-Playing Game on your PlayStation 4 – especially if you like games with crafting systems – you will enjoy the game. Just don’t go in expecting a jaw-dropping, deep story.
- Deep crafting system
- Loads of options in customizing your party by use of Roles
- Fun, engaging, fast flashy combat
- A lot of side and post-game content
- Story is lacking
- Some cut corners in presentation
- LET ME SEE THE DIFFERENT WEAPONS I EQUIP!